Friday, April 30, 2010

Signed Sealed Delivered

Looking at a volume of Emily Dickinson's letters. I read a line in the introduction and turned to the full letter. It speaks to me very much. Why can't I just let go? Withholding. My mind cannot stand to be confounded. April 16, 1862, To Mr. Higginson,--Are you too deeply occupied to say if my verse is alive?

This morning the fridge was a disorganized mess, with produce virtually spilling out of it. I intensely dislike our fridge. It is ergonomically all wrong, and I must stoop and bend (both!) to locate and pull out what I need. Getting out a carton of orange juice, if it's at the rear of the bottom shelf, is an ordeal.

I set myself to food prep and cooking. I did more than I expected to do, got into it, enjoyed going through the movements - retrospective choreography, I know all the steps - and now the fridge is a minimalist showcase of bowls and pots filled with prepared dishes. Yesterday I made (yes, yet again) Spicy Sicilian Chicken - I had all this eggplant. Today I took the chicken off the bone, transferred the leftover stew into a smaller pot, and instead of washing the stockpot decided to make... stock, thus clearing the freezer of a large bag of chicken bones, and the vegetable bins of aging celery, leek tops, etc. Also I made taboulleh salad, a cauliflower gratin, and a beautiful salad for lunch - arugula with tuna, feta, chickpeas, avocado, tomato, and carrot. D came home with the tuna and chickpeas and made more balsamic vinaigrette. The salad was delicious, truly the sum better than the parts - it was a transformation, not just "sliced endive" purporting to be salad - the flavors and textures melded and melted in my mouth. I'm already looking forward to breakfast tomorrow - banana yogurt pancakes with maple syrup - since I cooked turkey sausage and stirred together the dry ingredients for pancake mix.

I am enjoying the Emily Dickinson letters, her inimitable voice, intelligent, warm, direct - cutting always - without fuss, pretense, agenda, or archness - right to the chase. I think about her. I have something of her spirit. Perhaps there's a type. Of course there is. Kindred spirits.

Up in the aerie now with a glass of wine, Sabali by Amadou & Mariam has just come on now, dreamy Eurotechno heaven (la la la la la) and mysterious spoken voice - I'm dancing in my seat as I type - (bye bye it ends, signing off). An hour ago I wrote, A beautiful late afternoon. I'm on the back porch. It is in the 70s with a light breeze. The French lilac by the porch railing is in glorious bloom, dark lavender canticles (chanticleers?). Long bells. Sleeves. Divine fragrance disperses in the warm air. The Korean spice viburnum that we moved last fall because it never bloomed loves its new spot and is adorned with airy fat popcorn balls. Chimes ring, birds sing, and I hear what I think of as a "tree frog" - a charming croaking of what - a toad?

Plus I did laundry, so I feel very organized. Turned the radio down low and lay down on the sofa in the living room. I fell asleep and as I drifted awake I thought, and mouthed the words, You are my hawk, and I your dove.

Say a prayer for the pretender, Jackson Browne now sings. God I love that song.

And now, Stevie Wonder. Good time to hit send.

Kisses.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

More Proust than Beckett (opposite of Lydia Davis)

Gorgeous day today, still windy, but sunny and mild. Had the car for the afternoon as D did work next door. My mood lifted considerably as I flew down country roads, moon roof open, listening to radio. Enjoying my new jeans. I am so much slimmer now, I'm psyched. I am going to smile at cute guys from now on. A cute guy in the supermarket one morning last week smiled at me. We were on the checkout line and the wait was interminably long, minutes upon minutes. I had just come from a walk and wasn't feeling 100 percent, physically tired and a little lightheaded. I grew impatient as the line refused to move and other stations weren't opening. Ten to nine when people are trying to get to work you'd think they'd open an express line. An impassive, heavyset health worker ahead of me was buying Entenmann's, her turn, I imagined, to supply the coffee station. (Interesting side vibe at the end, I think she was lesbian. She quite frankly checked me out. There she was, incredible uniformed hulk, checking out unemployed wild woman. Never the twain shall meet.)

The guy stepped behind me. I had noticed him a few minutes earlier at the packaged organic lettuces as I made my way to the discount produce rack with my cart. Here he was again. An artist, I decided, intelligent, European - not an "exquisite" aesthete - rather, possessed of a sophisticated lowkey sensibility. Hudson definitely (+ NYC) - not Greenport. Straight (hopefully). Italian I thought, perhaps Argentinian - or both. He was behind me on this stupid line. The back of my head occurred to me, the messy state of my hair and I resolved to schedule a trim. I idly thought about his provenance and fretted about my hair and grew annoyed with the line and I turned, I don't know, maybe to glance at the magazines, maybe to take another peek at him. And he looked me right in the eye, a nice direct, acknowledging look - he saw me - and he smiled. It crossed my mind that he knew who I was, which doesn't make sense, all I am at this point is a housewife with a blog. How would anyone recognize me? Although come to think of it, I may have seen him once or twice at the conservation area, but that was ages and ages ago, and I might be thinking of a different person altogether. But maybe he recognized me from there, especially with my telltale freshly muddy shoes. Anyway, he had such a nice smile, and friendly eye contact, and I looked at him too and met his eyes and smiled, but I felt a little flustered and shy especially because I wasn't feeling well, and of course (as these things inevitably are, unless you're, say, in a bar) it was unexpected - so all in all? I looked away. We exchanged remarks about the slowness of the line, and then it began to move. I paid for my chicken, capers and olives, and left. I glanced back but now he was up at bat, not looking anymore. A week later, I think of his smile. That was nice.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

New American Language

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of April. Very cold this morning. A foot of snow fell in the North Country overnight though none here. Drove to the conservation area this morning but the winds were so strong along with cold drops pelting my face that I felt assaulted and returned to the car. The same weather in January I might have regarded as mild, but I would have been more warmly dressed.

Thinking difficult thoughts this morning. Do you wonder why I sob? How is it that one can be happy with someone for 20 years, then not. I read a short short story by Lydia Davis this morning, entitled A Double Negative, quoted here, as in the NYRB, in full:
At a certain point in her life, she realizes it is not so much that she wants to have a child as that she does not want not to have a child, or not to have had a child.
Is that true of me? Under other circumstances I might have wanted a child, or at least felt that if things were secure enough that having one was reasonably in the realm of possibility. My instincts were correct. Things were not secure enough. I am sorry about that and it leads me to believe that I made a very grave, irretrievable mistake a long time ago without my knowing at the time or for years after.

The Davis story reminded me of another double negative, from last fall, in reference to myself: "I would like to see you again at some point, and perhaps more importantly, I wouldn't want not to see you again sometime." Yes I have been reading your blog the past couple of weeks, you recently responded to me. Why was it too much (was it too much?) to add a comment, for example, perhaps, that you enjoy my blog? If that's the reason you look at it. Maybe your motivation is more akin to the way you noted that a number of women from, at one time or another, your father's past showed up at his funeral. It's nice to know that one day there might be a group, that it has been forming. I studied your letter last fall: "The intense feelings I carried for many years are now remote," having been replaced with a “new framework,” its nature undisclosed except in exclusive terms of temporality, the old framework defined solely as the remote past, the new framework as the present.

I might have made a good mother. I would have started by not naming a daughter after myself. I would have comforted her at menarche, and taught her how to shave her legs.

I have to allow for the possibility that I have a strong masochistic streak, or at least that I don't not have one.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

pair of swifts

Mist early, then pouring rain. At the conservation area this morning an old man, a regular, pauses. Something in the dead tree by the path has caught his attention. I know that he likes birds, he's told me. He strikes me as especially connected with nature. I am heading towards him and arrive at where he's standing. The tree is gray, petrified and expressive. It reminds me of the unusual implements Randy pointed out at his shop the other day, tall 18th century French wood pitchforks with long curved tines like fingers.

Good morning, I say. The old man gestures. He says, I've never seen them mate before. I look up at the tree. A pair of swifts flits together, joins, parts, joins again, the fleeting activity transpiring at a bare branch tip. A pair of swifts you and I. Lucky birds, I say. We laugh. I'm sure he knows what I mean.

I stop at the overlook. There's a thin mist and the river is still, silver with faint iridescent green from reflected fringes of trees (doubled in the water, upper and lower lashes). A bit later, the woods are a study in contrasts, psychedelic chartreuse against black earth and dark tangled bark. My walk awkwardly converges with that of a woman with her golden lab, whose loyalties for a moment split. He trails behind me as I trail behind her. It begins to rain and I don't have an umbrella. I don't have an umbrella because I carry hand weights and when I have the energy and believe no one's around, I go through various motions, lift the weights overhead, flap my arms like an angel, make little circles, jab right and left, etc. I'm getting wet and I want to lose the woman and her dog so when I reach the shortcut, a wide grass path that cuts through the middle of the park, I take it. My mind lands on despairing thoughts and I briefly sob, evidently startling a wild turkey. Ahead of me it bounds out of the overgrowth, runs up the path as fast as it can on its spindly legs, and takes flight. I didn't know that turkeys fly. The lumbering creature doesn't look airworthy, and it seems to have required the running start. I think it prefers the ground, but it does fly, taking off slowly like a heavy-loaded plane. At first opportunity it lands in the upper branches of a tree - the first tree it has reached.

Come home, clean up kitchen, make pastry dough and chop apples. Cozy morning for baking, aroma wafts upstairs. Fast forward to late afternoon. Have a piece of the crostata, long cooled. Go back to store, try on more jeans and buy a couple of pairs. Launder, put them on, scrutinize self before mirror. These are not "mom jeans." They're formfitting and emphasize curves. They fit well through the seat and legs but I need to lose more weight from my middle. I go for another walk, the long way down the creekside road, return by the shortcut trail behind the church. Roadside lilacs everywhere in bloom. The artist's lilacs from last week, in sugar water on my desk, still going strong. Sipping wine, finishing post. Cold tonight, snow showers maybe. D has laid a fire. What's for dinner? I'd better go find out. Thinking of you. Kisses.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Working on a Dream

I blow up an image to 800 percent, focus on the detail I wish, reach to touch the cool hard screen. I stroke your face. Your eyes look into mine. Positively cinematic, that gesture. I'm sure it's been done. The image is the one with the herringbone pattern like rough stitches on your forehead which you insisted was nothing, your hair. I'm not convinced. That image is off. Especially compared with another one, in which you also don't look happy (not that that's the quality I'm actually seeking in a snapshot of you), but more youthful, in better shape. And it's a later photo.

Roughly how it's going with me. I look better now than I did several years ago. Tried on jeans today. I'm a good two sizes smaller. (Will go back with coupon to buy.) I didn't look horrible in the dressing room mirror. That's saying something. If I didn't like rosé so much I'm sure my midriff would be leaner. There is something to be said for abusing pharmaceuticals. No calories, I presume. I don't smoke pot. Bad for my figure. I get the munchies.

Missing you. But not going off the deep end again, or trying not to. It's April after all. Lilacs are within reach and a few minutes ago I buried my nose in the blooms and inhaled deeply. Time stood still.

Storms gather in her head some days. I haven't said enough how much I love this song. Allison Moorer, "Broken Bird." La la la la la la la la la la la la la

How'd she get so blue
What broke her in too many pieces?


Mash with "When The Time Comes," ready with the big guns... must look up who does that song - you'd think I'd have that memorized by now - kind of like the bad way I was about memorizing the arcaneries of point vs. lateral public access and easement rules blah blah blah la la la la la la

Oh honey, you probably think I'm drunk as a skunk and I'm actually not. It's just an overcast day, it's the gloaming now at quarter to 7 but not in the magical way, because it's been gloaming or maybe gloomy all day...

Just in a liquidy mood, reflecting the grey sky. Ruth Reichl broke her foot (I check in on her tweets). Wow, that sucks. Had to cut short her book tour, just like that. No schadenfreude on my part here, for sure - I figure her to be someone pretty opposite to myself, who could always make lemons out of lemonade, or at least had a really good grip on how to be, or if not how to be, at least pretend how to be, or appear how to be...

I see that Mr. NFS has those beautiful ceramic pots that I'd glimpsed in his kitchen that weird & wonderful December morning sitting on his front porch. The time I was there there was a carton of bulbs that had arrived in the mail...

Please forgive me this rambling post, my love.

(Note to Jarrice, re: musical diversity - thanks for playing a song by a Polish female artist - I really enjoyed that!)

I'm workin' on a dream
And sometimes it feels so far away

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Ruby

"Sitting there crosslegged on my bed
Don't you stay away long that's what you said..."
Didn't I say something like that to you once, sitting on your bed in whatever state of dress or undress? You had maybe gone downstairs for something.

I check the KZE playlist - Blue Rodeo's Arizona Dust, I'm pretty sure. I see that they played a song titled Donde Estas Yolanda overnight (Pink Martini), and yesterday something from Ollabelle.

I slept late this morning, it's nine now. Overcast, maybe that's why. At the moment I feel as though I was in a car wreck but know that I will feel better as I get moving.

Dreamt last night of a bowl filled with ruby pomegranate seeds, and the night before of a baby girl who comes to me in tears. I take her into my arms. What's the matter baby, do you have a tummy ache? She nods yes but has to think about it, so I know that's not it. She blurts out, "I'm bored."

I need to go clothes shopping. My brown denims wore through yesterday, and one of my two pairs of jeans the week before. Most of my old clothes no longer fit. You know, the last couple of years I have been at times either euphoric or in despair - not a good mix, but one steady good thing that has transpired - besides writing nearly every day - is that I have become disciplined about getting in daily exercise and maintaining a healthy diet. As a result I have lost quite a bit of weight, have a nice shape (full-figured - but still - a figure) (slim chance - still a chance, sings Todd Snider), and my skin tone is good. When I walked into the salon yesterday my hairdresser exclaimed that I look terrific (though it was hard to see that for myself in their bad fluorescent lighting).

During the week I weeded the raised beds and yesterday D topdressed them with homemade compost. Amazing the transformation of ordinary kitchen scraps, placed daily into a bin and left to cook for many months. Rich compost spread with a rake, the square beds were like chocolate cakes jauntily dotted with the eggshells that didn't break down.

On our way home yesterday we stopped by our favorite local nursery, and I complemented Randy on his appealing radio voice and ability to wax poetically about trillium. We chatted local color and purchased fertilizer and vegetable packs from him. Last night D planted them up - a lettuce mix of lovely ruby, dark & light greens; parsley, broccoli, brussel sprouts, red onions, and arugula from seed. Today we will go around the garden and by turns scratch the earth, sprinkle organics, and water, to fertilize the young trees, shrubbery, and perennial beds.

Outside, on a clapboard wall of the old house were hung (with Randy's usual - that is, uncommon - artistry) a pair of charming antique mirrors which enticingly gathered and pooled the afternoon light and dappled shade. On my way in to settle the bill I caught a glimpse of myself within an iron-scrolled frame, reflected portrait against opalescent sky.

I like what I see. My hair, freshly trimmed, falls in a feminine way around my face, and the light brown shade suits my complexion. My formfitting top is bohemian, hip, and flattering; pilates has paid off. I smile in the mirror. A woman who appears kind and fun smiles back.
"Ruby, let down your golden hair
When I'm standing at the bottom of your stairs..."

So to further my swanlike (at 50) transformation, I'd like a brand spankin' new outfit, as Rick ("your host of the up and running morning show") might put it. I don't know what's in fashion, and what would look best on me, but I'd like to try on a few things. Wearing a pretty skirt again would be nice.

Friday, April 23, 2010

aromatherapy

1:30 p.m. On an Adirondack chair beneath a lilac which is budding and not quite yet in fragrant bloom. So much has greened in the last several weeks and it's in the 70s today so there's an illusion of its being late spring. Yet many trees are still bare, as if stubbornly clinging to their internal clocks despite the unbidden tinkerings of climate change. We have never leafed out before May and we're not about to start now. Lilacs, on the other hand, are going with the new flow. I don't remember them ever blooming in April with the daffodils.

The artist tells me that his lilac -- 75 years old he's been told, flattened by the last ice storm -- is late to bloom this year. I just wrote down the opposite, I say. I've asked his permission to take a few blooms. I circle around the massive, tangled bush, recovered, tall again, and reach overhead. The twigs snap easily. The dark buds aren't fragrant but once they open they lighten in color and release their scent, as if scent is tied up in some way with hue. Now, up in the aerie, I enjoy the sweet perfumed blossoms before me on my desk, flowers placed in sugar water in a green iridescent glass. Flowers - ones one might desire in particular to preserve - have been known to keep in the fridge for six months in water into which has been placed sugar, a couple of teaspoons, tablespoons, it seems hardly to matter which. I hand up a branch.

1 p.m. I am standing above the creek, the water's running over the rocks at just this spot, to delightful audible and visual effect, perpetual harmonics, froth. What a glorious site...

Later I went down to the water, endeavoring first to ascertain technical aspects as to legal waterfront public access, a subject that perhaps I should be more knowledgeable about given my past professional background. But it never soaked in, not even then. Perhaps there's a point (as opposed to path) that is public, but it seems that one must trespass over private property to reach it (unless there's an easement? but who would know? there's no signage). In any event, it may not matter in my case, I'm unlikely ever to be busted for trespassing (and yet, I feel punctilious on the point - public is public, and private is private, no "special exceptions.") I'm slightly acquainted with the property owner, for whom D occasionally does work. I took the liberty, legal with certain footfalls, arguably illegal with others, to go right down to the water. I took off my shoes, rolled up my pants, gingerly made my way down slippery rocks, and dipped my feet. I have been mildly obsessed, in some corner of my mind, about crossing creeks, coming into contact with the water. Water is such an amazing, omnipresent feature in the landscape here - and yet so hard to access. The ancient footbridge, for example, came down. The water was clear and felt cool but not frigid to my feet. I utterly enjoyed the unexpected summery sensation of stepping into a natural body of water. I wish I had taken a photo of, say, my feet, but I had put the camera down before my slippery descent on pitched rocks, and now it was out of reach.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

All Down the Line

Dearest, It's a beautiful late afternoon, I'm on the back porch listening to music on KZE, the occasional exclamations of children next door playing, birds twittering, chimes ringing. Winter is a distant memory - the world is technicolor now. A white crabapple blooms at the back of our yard. I love it because it's delicate and also because it gracefully screens out, until the leaves fall again, a neighbor's house. There's another crabapple, in a corner of the mixed border by the house, close by where I'm sitting. I wish I liked it better. I think it should be moved. It's dark pink now - lovely - but in September it covers itself with dark-red berries which clash with the lengthy spandrels of the purple buddleia which at that time of year, as hummingbirds still appear, is at its most graceful peak.

Much cooking this morning and there is a stockpot of Sicilian Spicy Chicken to show for it - the perfect dish to use an abundance of produce: zucchini, celery, eggplant, potatoes, and tomatoes; last summer's bell & chili peppers from the freezer; carrots; mint from the windowsill; and leftover Italian parsley. At the market this morning I bought chicken legs, a jar of capers, and a few unpitted olives from the olive bar - seasonings for the dish. Add the better part of a bottle of red after browning the chicken and afterward the vegetables - there you go.

D is still working over at the artist's property. The foundation on two sides of the house is all dug away. The house appears, from where I stood anyway, to be floating - and perhaps it needs to be - is holding its breath & making itself as light as possible until the concrete is poured later tonight. At least I think that's what's going on - vague on the details, but they seemed to be up against a deadline & may be there late tonight.

I put in a brief appearance to get the car, drop off cookies, steal a couple of glimpses, say hi, admire generally...

No reason to hang around. Fled. Drove to the library, checked HuffPo headlines and the Times, reserved a volume of Emily Dickinson's letters, googled a jazz festival, and watched a Pamela Anderson Dancing with the Stars youtube. Tiny dancer, quick and graceful, a spritely, long-legged fairy, dancing dragonfly. The sound was off. Now I'm regretting that. What were she & her partner dancing to, I wonder? (Tarantula, by Bob Schneider? Probably not.) Started checking out a David Gray youtube or two, wanted to transport myself in his howling, growling joy and melancholia, but I gave up - too much for the staid setting I was in, librarian at the desk droning on to a new patron about interlibrary loan...

Fled library. Ravenous. Considered stopping by a supermarket for deli ham which I haven't had for a while, or for smoked salmon which I could mash with cream cheese to go with bagel that, a previous day, had been beautifully proffered by the bulldozer operator who in today's mild weather tanned shoulders were bare. Remembered about a small container of sliced turkey in freezer. Returned home, steamed up turkey, toasted fine raisin-walnut bread, slathered on mayo, sliced tomato thin, rinsed & dried romaine, and piled together sandwich that wouldn't hold - has to be eaten all deconstructed, which is how, roughly, except maybe for lasagne, I like things...

Kisses.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

whenever we may find

Dearest love, D is in Hudson for a couple of hours so I have the car. I have taken myself to Olana and am sitting at a picnic table overlooking an expansive, greening vista with low blue hills behind. It is a spectacular day, sunny, with a soft breeze that stirs the trees, and the air where I sit is fragrant with - what? - something. I thought maybe lilacs but don't see any, but there is a wild overgrown shrub of some sort blooming white in front of me - it may be that. A bee investigates. Now I see - it's a felled tree, apple perhaps, trunk split but the tree not dead - still blooming.

I have felt restless today, perhaps with this fine weather. Dirty dishes are still in the sink but I did some weeding - I'll try to do a little each day. The dandelions seem particularly muscular this year though they pull easily enough. I took two walks this morning, one at the conservation area (bleak thoughts about involuntary celibacy made me briefly sob), and the second, after weeding; after sitting at the computer wondering what to write; after wondering whether to reply to you but really having in my mind only to say thanks for replying quickly and it was good to hear from you; after listening to Art Garfunkel sing For Emily Whenever I May Find Her; after reading and puzzling over Emily's three "Master" letters; after jotting down the words, "For Master whenever I may find him"; after snacking on cold chicken, taboulleh salad and an oatmeal cookie; after walking across the road to check for mail; after considering lying down (before noon, too early) - I decided to take a walk over to where D was working this morning, at the artist's property across the creek. I took the shortcut through the churchyard and down the woodland ridge trail, made my way up
the busy hairpin highway (nervewracking to drive but with its wide shoulders a doable walk), photographed beautiful wildflowers that few can ever see (else they'd crash), turned onto the charming hamlet road, passed a house owned by (no kidding, a wood sign proclaimed) The Stalkers, walked up the driveway, came upon the scene, startled, and got my eyeful. They were finishing up for the morning so my timing was good. I got a ride back.

Oh, there is lilac - I've just spotted it - white lilac - not even so many blooms - but so potent --





***
For Master whenever I may find him
You did not come to me in white
perhaps because I asked
I'm forever wearing white - no, baring all
I understand the neighbor child's desire to wear no clothes
enjoy an unfiltered state
so paradoxical
your heart is under lock & key
the page loads to speak for themselves

-- a complete absence of any wish or regard or anything for me --

***
on my walk at the conservation area bleak thoughts
about involuntary celibacy
I didn't choose to be a nun
I didn't take a vow of celibacy
to be reinforced with a cloistered life
Nuns choose their celibate lives. I didn't.

***
On the radio now ... the girls in Ypsilanti...

Sulphur to Sugarcane

The women in Poughkeepsie
Take their clothes off when they're tipsy
But I hear in Ypsilanti
They don't wear any panties
Once they gargle with champagne
They hitch up their skirts and exclaim
It's not very far, sugar
It's not very far, sugar
Pour some sugar on me, sugar
It's not very far from Sulphur to Sugarcane
***
Elvis Costello's lyrics sound so darn familiar. Where'd he get the idea about women in Ypsilanti?

***
Belle [a/k/a Iolanthe] to J, 7 July 2008
...You lay the groundwork well for the introduction of subtle, incremental furtherances of my erotic education. Eventually the studies had to move to more private, secluded spaces, your room, your attic, your car. Items of clothing came off by degrees, one evening my top, a week or two following, my skirt...
J to Belle, 7 July 2008
... I think you were wearing a medium blue skirt, but I'm not certain what sort of top you were wearing... One night we out to the place in that industrial park--I can't recall the name--near Springdale; it was a jazz place at the time. We spent most of the evening there listening to music and dancing, but in the middle of the evening, because we couldn't stand it any longer, we went out to the car in the very dark parking lot, and made love in the back seat. For practical reasons, you didn't take your skirt off, and we made love that way a number of times...
Belle to J, 8 July 2008
... You remember my various items of clothing so well! I'm amazed. I too remember making love while still wearing a skirt and nothing else. That was very erotic. I thought of that as I wrote to you yesterday, but just couldn't bring myself to write panties. So "skirt" it was...
***
Item from Blog of a Bookslut, 9 December 2009
... "panties" on my list of least favorite words...
***
Elvis Costello makes it okay - all of it - panties, skirt, hitched, Ypsilanti...

***
Belle to J, 18 July 2008
... More, more, and more. Panties peeled off and flung, skirt hitched...
***
... My fingers unbuttoning, then unzipping to get at you...
Belt buckle, belt buckle
Pour some water on me.










image: Ypsilanti historic water tower

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

against atheism

Went for a walk this morning. The colors were painterly, brilliant blue sky, leafing trees like a row of soft green brushes standing up, reflected in the doubling still river.

I walked down the path to the scenic overlook and noted that the end of a slender branch has disappeared, a casualty most likely of winter winds and heavy snows. It seems like such an inconsequential thing to miss. But actually last fall it was an occasion for me of a Eureka moment, my own version of the apple falling on Isaac Newton's head. It was a September morning, cool and misty, and there must be a time of year for spiderwebs - and that was it - because there were fantastic webs everywhere, like pictures hanging on wooded gallery walls. I headed down the narrow path and at eye level, about the size of my hand, was the hand of this branch end, thin twigs like fingers, through which threaded the web like spokes through a wheel. I looked at it head-on, a two-dimensional view. Then I took another step forward and was dismayed to realize that there was a three-dimensional, parabolic aspect to the branch, and that the web extended back, projecting from behind, as if from the back of the hand, fingertips splayed forward. I regarded the web with amazement and felt that maybe I was looking at a miniature visual metaphor for the universe - that we see things at one angle and think that's all there is to see, while from just a slight shift in angle there's a whole other perspective, and dimensionality and existence, like a film projector casting images -- we look at the screen and we see the images, but not the projector - but the projector is there. Why not believe that that is how God works in the universe?

Bluebird

Charming roadside garden and stone wall in progress, created by the gentleman who with his customary finesse operated the bulldozer on Sunday...

***
#1395

After all Birds have been investigated and laid aside-—
Nature imparts the little Blue-Bird-—assured
Her conscientious Voice will soar unmoved
Above ostensible Vicissitude.

First at the March-—competing with the Wind-—
Her panting note exalts us-—like a friend-—
Last to adhere when Summer cleaves away-—
Elegy of Integrity.


--Emily Dickinson

Monday, April 19, 2010

Everyday

Hello darling. A beautiful late afternoon. It's cool and the sun is bright. I ought to be out on the back porch writing this. I'm still waking up from my nap, which I collapsed into after a mountain of food prep and its aftermath. There was a lot of reduced produce at the supermarket this morning, perfectly good but needing to be attended to promptly, unwrapped from an excess of plastic, washed or put away, thought about in terms of menu planning, etc., etc. I made cauliflower gratin, taboulleh salad, and pasta with broccoli rabe. Also I baked cookies. The latter could have waited, save for what I know is an appreciative crew.

I went for a walk at the conservation area this morning. Then I went to the market. Sometimes my world feels very solipsistic. I'm home by myself a great deal. On top of that when I go out it seems as though I'm always running into roughly the same half-dozen people. On my walk was the usual guy with his golden lab. Now at least we exchange hellos. There's also an older woman who I frequently see. Her car was parked there as I was leaving. At the market I heard a woman's voice, "So that's our lives - first a walk, then ShopRite." I saw her now. "Seems this is what it's all come to." Then at the head of one of the aisles I ran into someone else who I was quite delighted to run into, only I was there first and my shopping cart was loaded to prove it, so don't think I'm getting stalkerish. I'm crazy but not that crazy. Though I did enjoy hanging out on your property yesterday but that was Sunday and I don't make a habit of hanging out wantonly like that during the week. I smiled and said hi and he said hi and we both smiled and I fled and I wondered if he read what I sent but perhaps it was so over the top that - look, good contractors are worth their weight in gold during high season especially, so I take nothing personally and understand perfectly all sorts of sensible considerations that must take place whatever time of year. Besides there's no rush whatever. See how it goes. You like chocolate chip. How are you on oatmeal-raisin?

While cookies baked I stepped outside to toss scraps [see: food prep, above] in the compost and my next door neighbor called out to me to come see her chicks. Cookies done, I took them out of the oven, placed a few in a napkin, and went over. Wow, chicks...
chicklets... chickens. The chicks were bigger than I expected, more like baby ducklings in the urban landscape of my mind. My neighbor is the mother of three beautiful, thriving toddlers - but chicks - she knows how to care for them? She used to be a zookeeper she reminded me, but I had imagined lions & tigers. Maybe so, but also the children's petting zoo. She's got a group of 25 that will live out a delightful 10-12 week life and then (dispatched by the butcher) become dinner, and in her outbuilding another half-dozen chicks, smaller and of a different type. These, she said, will live 8 or 10 years, earning their keep laying eggs. I'm impressed, and if I were a different sort of person I'd be tempted to try my hand myself. But I know how it is. It would end up falling on D. It's like that with the garden, I'll confess right now. I adore flowers but find physical gardening work utterly exhausting. I do some, of course, but have to keep things on a level that I can do and enjoy - such as with today's flurry of food prep. Tomorrow I'll vacuum. I have my priorities, and marshal my energies. Everyday - I must write to you.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

One Week

Hello darling, back home after spending the day outside at someone else's property, lovely wooded acres. It was interesting to observe the men collaboratively discuss the process of what needed to be done to shore up the house's foundation, all talk of jacks and 4 by 4s and 6 by 6s and impassioned disagreements back and forth, arguments, considerations, weighings, agreements. I stood by for some of this, observing. I barely understood what was going on, honestly. At one point it looked to me like they were trying to nail or screw this big long board to the foundation. They were complaining about how the screws wouldn't hold. So much effort, plus discussion. Then, minutes later, they're trying just as hard to take the same board off. I was like, I thought you were just trying to get that board on. That was then. The mysteries of foundation work. I looked up at the sky, my pant leg, my muddy shoe, the trees, listened to the light banter of the men as they toiled.

The guy whose house D's working at gave me an empty bottle that I guess got dug up in the process. It's grimy from being in the earth for who knows how long, a century or more. It's a soda bottle that reads, Edward Risedorph, Registered, Kinderhook, N.Y. He told me it would be hard to scrub clean, he's right, I washed it in the sink and it's cleaner but still grey.

I was going to roast chicken for dinner but realized that I have livers, recently thawed, collected from chickens past. So dinner will be liver and onions sauteed any old way really, because I don't have a recipe, except that I expect it will involve butter, cooking the onions first, and being careful not to overcook the livers - which, as I think of it, may be a cooking tip that I picked up from your mother. I have that idea from somewhere - yes, I think her (or possibly your father?) - that sauteed livers are great, as long as they're not killed by overcooking.

Can you tell that I'm tired and on my second glass of wine? And by the way, in the course of free-associating through all of this, I have so been enjoying (as always) Jerrice's show, and all the beautiful songs, and maybe it's my tiredness (though I fell asleep for a few minutes outside on that porch) but I've been hearing my name a lot or so it seems in them, plus the songs speak to me directly...

Ah, also mashed potatoes for dinner. Already peeled, in a pot of salted water. Let me go turn on the flame. All my love to you in Nirvana, Arcadia, wherever you are... Te amo.

In My Own Mind

9 a.m. Dearest, I am sitting on a porch overlooking the creek - the other side of the creek this time. I've come along with D on a job - I felt that I just couldn't bear to be by myself this Sunday morning - never alone on Sunday, as Lyle Lovett sings. It is lovely to sit perched here on the porch high on a hill looking down at the shimmering water. The water is audible, a constant backdrop of sound, like a waterfall. Maybe there is a waterfall. There is bird song, and the sound of the back door opening and slapping shut as the men go about the house in circles (or so it seems at the moment) going about their work. It's another one of those grey misty days reminding me of camping trips - another reason, I think, that I came along for the ride. The scenery is reminiscent of Mianus or Aspetuck or Webetuck or wherever it was we girl scouts used to go by VW bus to camp. (I look around - tangle of trees, bare branches like pincers. Chill mists cut through me and I see my breath, then the sun comes out and I'm warm.)

I just walked down the road to the water's edge - it's shallow rapids that I hear. I wonder if anyone ever swims here (in the quieter parts), how deep the water is. Maybe it's too treacherous for swimming. For rafting? I've never seen anyone on the water.

I feel like Cunegonde being here. Perhaps I should be making pastries to help, I said to the client (nice guy). I brought cookies yesterday - close! (Endless recursions - I am Echo and Cunegonde). Making lunch would be more realistic and practical, though. It would be nice to make them lunch, cook something up this morning. Spaghetti sauce, perhaps. Or perhaps just sandwiches. I ask myself - what would Ruth Reichl do?

***
1 p.m. As it happened the client wanted Subway for lunch and D & I went home for leftovers. It wasn't my Cunegonde day today, though I sent D back with more cookies. Am at the library now, will head back to sit on the Adirondack chair on the client's porch again. It is good to tear myself away from the computer and from KZE for a day. As a result I have made great progress with Jerome Charyn's Emily Dickinson novel. I'm very impressed with it, bracing language and voice. I glance at reviews on the dust jacket - someone compares Charyn to Nabokov, and I think that's about right - it's that startlingly direct, fresh and original.

Wondering about mysterious page hits from Belgium - so strange, this page hit business, and none, ever, from Hudson. Go figure. Anyway. Hope your Sunday is going well, darling. Thinking of you. Kisses.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Long Way Home

Good morning darling. Cool and gray today, raining lightly. I feel a sense of lighthearted well-being. The weather reminds me of girlhood camping trips. They always seemed to take place in inclement weather, with us scouts struggling to keep the campfire going and ourselves from damp.
I'm back from a walk. I was going to go my usual route, down to the bottom of one road and left on another that meanders west-southwest and after a while abuts the creek, but it started to rain harder so I turned around. Then the rain stopped so I kept on my walk, cutting through church property which is quite extensive, a number of acres, some of it 19th century graveyard. At the rear, behind a gathering of tombstones, the ground culminates in a steep ridge. I have always stopped well short of the drop. But today I discovered a path that slopes downward along the ridge. I never noticed it, when snow was on the ground. I followed it and felt a sense of time suspended - could be now, or 100 years ago, 200, an Indian trail maybe...
As I neared the end I realized that it culminates precisely where my usual walk (if I'm on the road) also stops, at a closed-off dead end. I was walking down a steep, densely wooded hill, which on other walks I had looked up at and idly wondered whose property it was, and what was on the other side. I had judged the church property to be considerably south, not connecting to here. Like a web page refreshing, all of a sudden my mental map of this neck of the woods underwent a dramatic revision. It was interesting to notice the mind-brain shift, the involuntary tectonic change in the landscape of my mind.

Also, I am glad to have discovered a shortcut home.

More later - must run to the movies now. Kisses.



Friday, April 16, 2010

Pick up, artist

Okay so Belle could use lessons. No shit. I'm out of the swing. But what's with pretty pictures and no working email? Forced spoken voice @ machine is not my forte. Couldn't even text - untextable landline (bah). So what's a poetic blogger supposed to do? Go without forever? Never even try to be an actor in her own desire? I do my best without car, cash & cell. Do you mean that I'm supposed to go on craigslist like everybody else? Yeah, good luck without accoutrements and the proper 'tude. Can't we manage something a little more... elegant?

Then again if you've got a date tonight, tomorrow, or have it going on - then never mind.

Go get what you need my love, sang Carrie Rodriguez. Listen you, you're cute. If you buck up you just might get some paleolithic love talk from me, and I'll pay attention when you show me how to work the bifacial hand tool the way you like. UNH.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Power of the Heart

Hey babe. Beautiful mild evening. I just topped off the bird feeder, waved hello to the neighbor girl who sailed down our sunlit dead-end road on her scooter and called out hi to me by name. I did remember her name from when she stopped by last week, but wasn't sure of her young brother's who was with her, also on scooter. It's nice to be addressed by one's name. I would certainly like to return the favor, especially to children.

I've just done some futzing in the kitchen, unloading the dishwasher, taking chicken off the bone, chopping and spinning romaine. Dinner will be caesar salad with leftover roast chicken and croutons that I make from discounted day-old baguettes from fashionable bakeries (chop up bread, put on baking pan, toss with EVOO and minced garlic, bake til toasted, toss once maybe in the process; let cool; croutons keep well in closed container in fridge.)

Arvada. On the other side of Denver, midway between your zip and Boulder. Which may simply mean that you've migrated upstairs to a study or - well who knows - it doesn't bear guessing really. Your page hits melt like rain.

It was nice to go out to the shed for the bird seed. For one thing, the shed has been completely refurbished by D, a couple of years ago. When we first moved in it had no doors whatever, leaned precipitously, was propped up on one side with two by fours - a complete eyesore mess. D designed and built doors, shored up the structure, did all that was required to fix it up. Now it serves as a very pleasant garden shed. The house still has many an aesthetic issue, but the shed is in my view perfect. I felt like quite the lady of the manner marching to it to fetch bird seed. I'm neatly dressed, my hair which I washed this morning (with a special scrub of neck and ears) was down, and it was just a nice moment of things coming together in a perfect moment - me feeling good, a glass of wine waiting for me inside, a delightful girl calling out to me by name, happy cats, satisfying clasp of the latch as I closed the shed door behind me.

A few years ago, when we first moved up here, we took a spin on a secluded road. It was late day, the sun was golden on the green hills and we passed by a farm...

***
Excerpt from a post from my old Hidden Clapboard blog, 31 May 2005.
...It's late afternoon and we're driving along a back country road in Dutchess County, just over the border from the NW corner of CT. The scenery is especially magnificent, if that's possible in this region of spectacular scenery. Mile after mile of rolling farmland, far-reaching mountain vistas, lakes and streams. We pass a farm, where I glimpse a woman stepping towards her barn. She is tall, her carriage erect and her walk graceful. She wears her golden hair swept back in a loose bun at her nape, just so. She's dressed in casual country attire; slim trousers are tucked in tall boots. Over the barn door hangs a charming rustic wood sign lettered with the name of the farm. Golden light illuminates the pastoral scene. I imagine that she is going to greet her farm animals, happy creatures: she's bringing them a treat. I picture smiling baby goats and lambs. For a moment, it's like driving by a photo spread in a glossy magazine, House & Garden. Sheer, expensive perfection. A picture of rustic simplicity, backed by long-time millions in solid investments...
***
In my blog I went on to discuss an utterly contrasting image, but that's not where my head's at tonight.

Tonight I felt a moment of serene well-being, stepping towards my own shed in beautiful light.

Dearest, wherever you are - southeast, northwest, down the stairs or up - so much love, and very many kisses.

***
I think I'm done and I know you're smart... and mainly I dream of you a lot... the power of your heart...

Bridge over Stockport Creek


What are you taking pictures of?
Wasn't there a footbridge there?
Yeah
What happened to it?
Came down
When?
Month, 6 weeks ago
In a storm?
Nah, there never was no money to fix it. All of a sudden it just came down.


***
Apparently the suspension footbridge came down on February 24 due to the weight of heavy snow. There had been interest in the community to preserve it but the funds couldn't be amassed. I'm sorry to see the ghostly vestige go (here are a few more images and a nice write-up). It appealed to my imagination the first time I ever glimpsed it and I fantasized about being able to cross it and thus access Footbridge Road on the other side. Oh well. To issues of encroachment, add degradation...


top photo taken today; bottom photo on 14 Dec. 2009

Want

Back from my creekside walk on which I thought mostly illicit impossible thoughts. There used to be a bridge and now I can't cross over. My god. Is there no end to this? I'm glad I can't see into the future because if it holds no more than more of the same - ah I'm okay, just musing about erotic doubles of various sorts, by which I'm thinking of the Ashbery of course, but also of peaches I once mashed. It's been too long. Now I want to come home.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Livin' the Life

Dearest love, the most beautiful hour right now, so much engaging my senses, liquid light exquisite, shadows long, sharp contrasts in dark and light. A wonderful dinner is roasting in the oven - chicken, whole russets, a pan of cubed carrots & winter squash tossed with minced garlic and EVOO. I sat outside on the porch with a glass of wine, light liquid, shadows long, wind chimes caroling, and remembered that I had pastry dough in the fridge and some apples. So I went in, got out the dough, rolled it out, came back out on the porch with the apples and sliced them into a bowl. As my hands moved a song on KZE mentioned the Colorado Rockies, and of course I thought of you. I turned my face to the sun and shut my eyes and saw a color field of red, my own blood I suppose. Now there's an open-face pie baking too. Up here in the aerie it smells of the promise of a fine meal to come, and the magical light, gone now from downstairs, is up here still.

Ah sweetheart, I have nothing deep or especially poetic for you tonight, just thoughts of you, and well wishes. Tonight is Date Night at the Rhinecliff, plus The Bottomless Pit with Marshall Crenshaw, whose DJ speaking voice I really like and drift asleep to most Wednesday nights... Plus Evolution with Rick, but unfortunately I'm hardly ever awake for it.

Now there's a beautiful David Gray song on, Brick Walls. I wait and the time will come.

on your windowpane

Hello darling. Joy does kill sorrow. I was mooking out a bit earlier and then Willie Nile's Her Love Falls Like Rain came on, an expansively lush, gorgeous song. Whenever I hear it I think, I hope that's how I make you feel - that you experience my love as falling on you like rain.* That thought never fails to make me happy, as it did while I stood in the kitchen rinsing broccoli rabe. A few songs later KZE played Send Me a Letter by Joy Kills Sorrow - so here you are, my love.

It's beautiful here today, sunny and in the 60s. I made California omelet for breakfast (Tim Easton just sang Kal-i-for-nye-aye as I typed the word), with sourdough bread - wonderfully sour - courtesy of our neighbors who brought it for us from Manhattan. Eating very well today (do most days, actually). For lunch I made a pasta sauce of ground turkey, tomato, garlic, stock, and broccoli rabe, topped with grated parmesan, a condiment that I would wish to have with me if stranded on a desert island.

Went for a walk at the conservation area, where the groundskeeper sitting high on his mowing tractor idled the thunderous engine until I passed - a rather courtly gesture, I thought. Then I took a spin to the library, and came away with the novel The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson, by Jerome Charyn, which perhaps I'll start this afternoon. I like the epigram - To shut our eyes is Travel, Emily wrote in 1870. To shut my eyes is to kiss you, my dearest. I hope your day is going well.

***
*Your page hits fall like golfball-sized hail...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Cupidon s'en fout

A man came to the door today
KZE played loud in the room where we stood
going over what I should get
The back door was open
spilling music onto
the porch, the garden,
and the sunny drive.
Hello, hello, I heard someone
say above the song
and I said, D,
someone's at the door
he went to see and I kept on
I looked nice, soft colors, about to go out
My hair was up but fell about
I kept watering, glanced at the door
A guy stood on the porch talking to D
He's selling something, I figured
and went to the kitchen, put more water in the can
then he was in the house with D
they stood talking in the sunlit room
I looked at him again
He looked like you
lean build, tall, grayer maybe than you
jeans, rugged looks, manly, good
From the kitchen I stood and looked
then he looked and D said
oh that's my wife, and I smiled and
said hi and kept smiling and looked. Why run?
So I looked and I smiled and he smiled and he looked and I looked
high beams flashed
my hair was up but fell about
I fled upstairs and had a good laugh
I had been about to leave, but
his truck was parked behind our car so now I couldn't
there was no rush
so I wrote a post and even after slow uploads heard
they were still in the driveway. So I thought look here's
my chance for another look. He'll never be back.
So I went out
hung laundry and checked again
He looks like you, enough to pretend.
A song is now playing, and it sounds like
yo-la-yo-la-yo-la-ee-aye-yo
en français.
I need a tall glass of water.
So what's his story I later asked. I got an answer.
He needs carpentry work - something,
roofing work, masons willing to dig holes,
I forget what.

some surprise

Good morning darling. Beautiful soft day, I've been going about the house moving from chore to chore in a relaxed way, listening to music, attending to something here, turning to something there, thinking, musing. Have gotten quite a bit done without any feeling of strain. About to go for a walk and the supermarket.
I made a circle around the house to see what's in bloom and Penelope and Claire followed me.

Your lips come as some surprise. Yes.

***


Monday, April 12, 2010

forever young

Hello dearest. Back home after a very pleasant afternoon. Hightailed it to the Commonwealth, arrived early so ventured down a back road that went by Simon's Rock and hedge-fund-funded properties, threaded my way back to town, parked, and went to the cinema. Saw Chloe, an erotic psycho-sexual thriller starring Julianne Moore, Liam Neeson, and Amanda Seyfried. It held my interest all the way up to the improbable ending, but I didn't even care, the production values were wonderful - the costumes, Seyfried's beautiful hair, her unusual beauty generally, Liam Neeson who put me in mind of you, and Julianne Moore who put me in mind of me except why can't I look even a tiny bit like her, I wouldn't mind her sculpted cheekbones for example, rather than my thickened middle-age features? I had zero sympathy for her character while she went on about how Old she felt, not with her shapely legs and utterly photogenic silhouette. I mean, really. Seriously - not being falsely modest - if you still love me it can no longer be about looks, not 35 years later. Being philosophical here - perhaps it's best this all be in mind without biology, after all. Not that I'm so dreadful looking, but the disconnect between my internal image of myself and photographed images - I've gone down this thematic road with you before, but it really is discouraging.

Good lord. I didn't mean to go on about that. As I sat in the theatre watching Chloe, I remembered another perfume I once wore, of the same name, by Lagerfeld. I had completely forgotten about it, even with all that heavy-duty remembrance of fragrance past that I engaged in a couple of summers ago with you. Thinking of it at the movies I couldn't - still can't - remember at what time in my life I wore it. And I wore it for a while I think, but amorous associations aren't there. San Francisco perhaps...

I returned along a different route, via highways and back roads. So delightful. I never tire of taking in the beauty of the landscape here - anywhere really. In my youth I used to bike all over North Stamford, Darien, and New Canaan. I would make it as far north as Scott's Corners in Westchester some days, 15 miles from home, dusk approaching, the ride home fortunately downhill, even in the dark...

Birds of a feather, my love - gentle way-old mountains here, brand-spanking new mountains there...

I Like to Sleep Late in the Morning

10:30. Tired and out of it this morning. Drifted in and out of sleep last night. Woke up for I Can See the Pines Are Dancing, then again some time later for Never Coming Down. Got up at 7, had to peel Claire and Gwynnie off the covers so I could get up. Trying to figure out what to do with myself today. "Terrible freedom." I have the car again for the day. I thought about going to Great Barrington to see Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but see that it will be playing locally next weekend. Stopped by the conservation area earlier thinking I'd write there. A couple passed by speaking Polish. So I said dzień dobry. I wasn't dressed warmly enough to stay and write so I came back home. One of those days.

Wow. I have nothing at the moment. I wonder what you're doing, what's new with you.

***
I lay down for a while and am back up, feeling somewhat better. I think I'm going to get myself out the door for a walk, and then maybe a spin to G.B. for a different movie. Seize the day, since I have the car. This is the most boring, pointless post ever - but I am throwing my arms around you and squeezing you tight and giving you a big kiss, and hope to be full of new sensory inputs and impressions to fashion more interesting prose later. Have a great day, darling.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sunday session

Good morning dearest. A beautiful mild morning. It's ten a.m. My walk at the conservation area is behind me already. I was the only person I encountered - except for a man clambering up a tree. An odd sight. He was pretty high up, saw that I saw him, said hi, and I said hi back. It did look like a good climbing tree - many strong branches. He walked up it almost as if it was a staircase.

Perfectly harmless I'm sure, yet unsettling, a little. It reminded me of the summer before 9/11 - and of course we didn't know it was the summer before 9/11 - when I had a strong, recurring sense of unease. There were strange occurrences in NY Harbor that summer - my memory's hazy now but as I recall, a small plane buzzing the Statue of Liberty (or maybe someone had parachuted onto it?) and another day, a man clambered up the span of the Brooklyn Bridge. And always jets flying along Manhattan too low, too close to the metropolis. I used to walk to work across the bridge very often and one morning - I think D was with me - I just froze in my tracks and said that things didn't feel right. It was just a brief moment of stopping on the bridge and acknowledging my anxiety - and that was it. I resumed the walk and went to work.

Anyway. I'm actually sitting at a little table outside a café on Warren Street. The street is just waking up. The waitress has poured me a refill of coffee. A good-looking man has just left the restaurant. He's wearing a ball cap and has roughly your lean, lanky build - I wish he were you and I confess that as a result I am looking down the street at him longingly. Ah, he's on the next block already. Madness.

I've had the luxury of the car to myself this weekend. Our neighbors went to the city for the weekend. D dropped them off at the train station with their car and will pick them back up at some point. In exchange he has the use of their car - hence my spritely jaunt over state lines yesterday, and the freedom to go where and when I please today, though I will stay closer to home. Can I tell you just how airy I am? I've forgotten how to pump gas. D always takes care of it. I would be quite clueless if I were to run out. In my own defense, I used to know how, when I lived in California nearly 30 years ago. I quickly forget how to work most things mechanical unless I'm working them all the time. If I had to learn I'm sure I could pick it up again.

A baby girl, all smiles, has just ambled by with her parents. She's wearing cute spangled shoes that sound like a rubber duckie with each step. "Squeaky baby," I say, and Papa replies, "She needs an oil change."

Sitting here reminds me of my California days, lingering in the dappled shade of the courtyard at the Mimosa Café in Oakland. Wish you were with me, darling. Do you like California omelets?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

caramelized popcorn

Hey darling, back up in the aerie at the end of the day with a glass of wine, listening to Radio Archaeology. At the moment Raissa is playing very sultry jazz. Spent the afternoon driving all over beauteous pastoral creation taking in the springtime scenery of three states and numerous counties. It was going to be two states and three counties (Empire & Nutmeg; Columbia, Dutchess, and NW Litchfield). But when the Keb' Mo' & Jonatha Brooke duet, All You Gotta Do Is Touch Me came on at the junction at the White Hart (get thee over here you) Inn in Salisbury, CT, my windows steamed over and I wound up in Memphis on one level and in Massachusetts on another.

Listen dearest, pour yourself a glass of something, turn the lights down low, listen to the song, and think of me. Many kisses, my handsome darling. I'm exploring the various states and counties of the savanna of you. Spreading kisses all over, lingering over the sights, stopping wherever you like.

Santa Fe

Good morning darling. Waking up in the aerie with coffee. Picked myself up off the solarium floor at dawn, shut the radio, and fell into bed upstairs. Wrapped my arms around a pillow and fell asleep. Slept in til nearly nine and drifted awake, thinking of you, of how Penelope sighs musically in her sleep, and of the trip across the river yesterday, so simple yet so laden with impressions, a film unspooling as it was happening, and now.

(I hear the girls on their scooters in my driveway - they're back. At dusk yesterday I was in the solarium, heard noises in the driveway, glanced outside, and was surprised to see two young girls marching purposefully up the porch steps. I opened the door and they beamingly introduced themselves. One of them lives next door (has for at least a year) and the other described herself as "just her friend." I said, no such thing as "just" a friend - that's a great thing to be. (Do I ever miss an opportunity to extemporize philosophically?) They are very sweet. I wonder what prompted them to stop by. Could it be because a letter I wrote to the paper finally got published? I had wondered about it and yesterday at the library checked. Yes, on Tuesday. Good, that saves me from having to place a tedious call. It's an okay letter though writing "great land" was arguably laying it on too thick. Oh heck, why not. Democrats need to lay it on thick too. And by the way I'm rather liking the sight of flags, some tattered, some new, majestically flying everywhere.)

Anyway. We crossed the river, the mountains were covered in mist and I admired the steel structure of the Rip Van Winkle. I wanted a picture - memory full. Curses. Cleared memory, on other side already. Welcome to Catskill, home of the Catskill Glee Club. Drove west, then north, then up the hillside to the vet. D parked across from the low rustic building that sits nestled in the wooded landscape. He took in Rafe and I stayed in the car, enjoying the peaceful surround of protective trees. Radio on low, I pulled out readers, pen, and notebook and began to write. Then I pulled down the mirror. My eyes are blue. My hair was coming undone. Pinned it up again. Returned to writing. A car drove up, two women emerged with a terrier and went in. I unzipped my fleece. I like my outfit, the flattering top I'm wearing with jeans, lovely soft colors, brown and green, my new lacy bra beneath. I looked down the peaceful hill in all its vegetation, trees leafing out amid pink and white blossoms, beautifully untrimmed forsythia ablaze. I reached over to turn the key to the ignition and lowered my window. The layer between me and nature removed. Fragrant cool air hit my face. I love you, I wrote. Lost myself in writing and was startled when D returned with Rafe. Just the one vet today, he reported, not the one we usually get. We head back to the bridge. D tells a funny story. The vet says, I have to get cat food for my brother. Your brother eats cat food? Not that I know of. I bring it down to him in the city. He used to be a trucker. Then he found out he didn't want to be a trucker. Now he plays piano. Professionally? In hotels. That's professionally, but I don't want to know why he got out of trucking. It came to him. One day he looked around and said, you know, I play piano better than all these truckers. And that was it.

We crossed back over the bridge and I rolled down my window and snapped an image of the silver river. D offered to stop at an orchard at the foot of the bridge so I could get a few more shots. I got out and climbed a short hill to get a view of Olana. The grass was wet, my brown shoes became shiny with droplets, my bare feet in the open tops got wet, and it felt refreshing. I took pictures, realized that this was a cherry orchard, and thought of Chekhov. Then I got back in the car and looked forward to putting it all together in a post for you, with love and many kisses.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The view from below Olana

Notes from my journal this morning...
Good morning darling. I'm sitting in the car with the radio on. I went along for the ride to the vet across the river in Catskill. Rafe has a recurring condition that inflames his gums so he yelps in pain when he eats - steroid shots help.

It's a beautiful day in its way, cool, misty, rainy. Rain pounded the tin roof in the solarium overnight. I love the sound of rain. I got up in the middle of the night (as I do most nights) to take a few steps in the dark to let in the cats. I tap on the window and two dark shadows appear. I open the door ajar and they dart past my feet. I tap the window again to see if there's a third or fourth cat (I lose track of who's in or out). Last night it was Gwynnie and Penelope waiting to be let in. Good. Maybe alone together in the night they're starting to get along.

I love you, darling.

I've been thinking about how my sense of theology has shifted and developed in - I don't know how long. Since our correspondence, and all the songs, and strange occurrences, and a realization that on occasion I enter an ecstatic mode. It's hard to describe and maybe it's best not to. But let's say that I have an entirely different sense of scale than I ever did. On some level, I don't believe (if I ever did) that Man is the measure of all things, that the buck stops with us, that we're at the top of the pyramid. I feel that we're at one level, one scale in the midst of everything else that's going on at other levels. Sort of like the way we watch cinema - someone's watching us.

And I'm finding it important to externalize and try to pin down the evanescent, the memories, the sensory impressions. You awakened my thinking on that. And why? Almost as though in heaven that's what will be left to look at, to enjoy - the films or other art products of our lives that can be returned to again and again, or that have an independent existence, are given a form and not just escaped through our fingers.

Wow. It's so hard to write about this stuff. Sort of the way one blogger mocked a biographer for writing about Daphne DuMaurier's mystical creative process.

***
Back home now. This post barely makes sense. But I'll let it fly. Sometimes it's best not to be too fussy.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Secret Santa

One of the things I loved best about college was being in Boston. I fell in love with the city as well as with Cambridge, a T ride away or – better, if I had the time - an ever-fascinating bus ride along the length of “Mass Av” from the Back Bay across the Charles, past the imposing columns of MIT, through gritty downtown Central Square, and onward to the end of the route in the enticing bricked precinct of Harvard Square.

As the winter holidays approached students on the floor of the dorm where I lived organized a Secret Santa gift exchange. Those who wished to submitted their names on slips of paper and each in turn pulled a name. Each participant, according to inclination, ability, or whim, was to anonymously bestow on her recipient either a few little surprises over the course of several days, or a single gift at the end.

My imagination seized on the Secret Santa project, to the neglect of my studies. For a week or two it became the organizing principle to my walks, jaunts and excursions all over town, a scavenger hunt for inexpensive delights. I had pulled the name of a girl I didn’t know. Her room was at the other end of the hall from mine. I observed her now from a distance. She appeared to be a lovely young woman, graceful and unassuming. If we had ever had a conversation – it couldn’t have been much, I didn’t know her, and I kept my role as her secret Santa just that – secret. I was aware that someone had pulled my name too, a tantalizing thought but secondary. What excited me was the fun of the game. It became a gratuitous labor of love for me – a creative art project.

There was a quaint apothecary in Harvard Square, and I remember stopping there on my mad mission. Perhaps I purchased a tiny fragrant soap, or a charming packet of bath salts. A neighboring shop carried beautiful paper ephemera and imported candies. I may have selected for her French framboises drops – purchased as much for the tin with its exquisite botanical image as for the powdery pink sweets inside. I purchased or fashioned gift cards, and invented witty and whimsical rhymes to hint at each tiny accompanying gift. (I happily picked up on this charming custom which I had experienced with my Polish relatives in New Jersey; Christmases at their house, every package placed under the tree was accompanied with a cryptic, lyrical verse.) I may have given her a German gingerbread cookie with a paper image of Santa Claus, a tradition my parents had adhered to in observance of Saint Nicholas Day. Perhaps I purchased a festive card from the Gardner Museum or the MFA. I wouldn’t be surprised if I gave her a few gold gilt chocolate coins (reserving some for myself) and almost certainly, colorful foil-wrapped chocolate eggs accompanied by a little rhyme penned, I'm sure, in my tiniest best calligraphy.

I went a little overboard with this project because I enjoyed it so much, inventing new ways to delight this virtual stranger and entertaining myself in the process. I left the surprises, one a day for about a week, in the young woman's mailbox, taped to her door, hung on her doorknob, or placed in her washroom cubby, etc., etc. I kept game-faced but once or twice was delighted to observe at the far end of the hall her amazed discovery and her showing it to friends who gathered around her. I didn’t know the girl and didn’t ever expect to, but I took great pleasure in her delight and, in an unarticulated way, satisfaction in my own capability to create pleasure.

No one had as yet done anything for me. I knew that no one could possibly have gotten quite so into the project as much as me, so I knew not to expect much. In the end, a couple of large dime-store candy canes appeared with my name on them.

At the appointed hour the young woman who had been the object of my creative expressions learned my identity and thanked me very warmly. I could tell that she was touched by my efforts. She herself had pulled a name, not mine. I think she was quite wise. I am left all these years later with the impression that she recognized the bittersweet aspect of the gift exchange, how one person - as, so often, in love - will give more than the other, that it’s almost bound to be inherently unfair that way. I have a lingering impression that the young woman said to me gently, you know, these things get noticed and remembered - it counts.

Months later I took myself out to lunch one afternoon at the Magic Pan on Newbury Street. I’m sure I ordered crêpes aux coquilles Saint Jacques, my favorite at the time, bay scallops in a seasoned cream sauce. The young woman entered the restaurant with her mother and they took a table a few over from mine. I finished my meal and as I was leaving the young woman graciously gestured for me to come to her table. She introduced me to her mother. “She’s the one who was my incredible Secret Santa.” Her mother smiled at me and said oh!, with a look of recognition. She knew just who her daughter meant.

good morning happiness

What a fine day! It is gorgeous out, the air is mild and soft, and the garden is coming to life. I was up and running correctly at the conservation area at seven, earliest I've ever been. It's when I could get the car, plus it's supposed to hit 80 today. I had the place to myself except for the birds, coyotes, maybe a bear, if a sighting on the red trail as reported in the log is to be believed, and any New Earth Army hiding in the bushes. A song was going through my head, Marshall Crenshaw's Never Coming Down that played overnight. A lovely, lilting waltz (I think) - deceptively simple. It makes unexpected, expressive turns that I love and found as I sang aloud (la la la never coming down la la la) aren't so easy to duplicate. Anyway. Birds were singing and so was I, a fine way to start the morning. Then I stopped at the supermarket and came away with pots of spring flowers. I planted the daffodils in a border, and placed tulips and hyacinths around the house. Working on another bit of memoir this morning which I'll post later. My hair is up, I feel fit, fine and positively hugged and kissed this morning. Have a beautiful day, dearest - kisses.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Hard to Change

Thinking about my freshman year brings back a flood of memories, unfortunately mostly wave after wave of despairing ones. I found myself at Simmons College because I had messed up the college admissions process due to, as I now see it, a bad depression. (This is nothing against Simmons, a fine school, and I'm grateful that they accepted me.) J had left for Alaska. There was a vague understanding that we were engaged to be married, but of course that turned out not to be the case, and it felt slippery and vague even at the time. I might have spent college in Fairbanks, a place I couldn’t imagine myself in as much as I wanted to be with him. The whole thing between us fell apart when he came home for Christmas. After the paradise of my junior year of high school, my senior year was disastrous for me. J was gone. I was heartbroken. My parents were pitiless. My best girlfriend also was gone, abroad as an AFS student. J’s mother, for some reason – perhaps out of loneliness herself - invited me to come live with her that fall. I gladly accepted. It was an escape from the hellhole of the house I grew up in, one bathroom to six people. I shared a room with my sister, who was seven years younger than me. We were all scorpions in a bottle in that house. To this day few of the remaining of us who are alive are even on speaking terms. It really was a hell. So yes, gladly I accepted F’s invitation to live with her. She was gay and exuberant, a wonderful cook, she loved a nightly fire in the hearth, a glass of Gallo burgundy, readings from humorous books and poetry, etc., etc. I moved in with her and now took the bus to school along with the wealthy North Stamford set. J’s brother came home from college on weekends. We got along, too well. We were all of us very lonely. The terms had shifted. That fall I put on weight and started smoking. F gave English lessons to a German who left his cigarettes on the mantel. I experimented. In her living room I would stay up late drinking red wine, smoking, and watching Janus films on PBS. The room would be smoky the next morning. I was depressed, and F’s mood towards me soured, unsurprisingly. Also, she did not approve of this vague engagement between me and her son. Things were very confusing that year. Anyway, she asked me to leave, and I did, and my parents reluctantly accepted me back, they didn’t have a choice. I should have been devoting my fall to researching and applying to colleges but things had fallen completely apart and I had no help or support. The whole fall I was living with F I hardly saw either of my parents at all. I would never have expected anything from my father, we had been at war since I was a toddler when he pinched my arm very hard when I in my joyful play woke him one Sunday morning. But I expected more from my mother. To this day I do not forgive her. But that’s another story.

So that spring I went to school during the day, worked some afternoons at the library, did my homework, took long bike rides, and otherwise took to bed, crying and sleeping too much. (Actually the fall at F’s was much like that too. F was nice, to a point, but she wasn’t much of an empath. Well, she wasn’t my mother – I couldn’t expect maternal support from her. Besides, she was J’s mother.)

Anyway. So I was back at home and it was midspring my senior year and I still hadn’t applied anywhere to school that fall. The mail was always full of glossy brochures and packets, and Simmons College sent an attractive one with the sights of Boston, a city I had set foot in only once before in my life, on a school daytrip to the Freedom Trail. (To this day I can remember that early morning, the coach bus barreling down the vast fogbound Rhode Island turnpike, the happiness I felt that moment, timeless, weightless, transported.)

I applied to Simmons, was accepted, received financial aid. That summer I lived as an au pair with a family in Riverside, Greenwich, taking caring of their five-year old autistic daughter. That’s another story too. I didn’t last the summer. I was depressed and on my own with this beautiful, mute child, and my heart was broken for J and I had no one. The parents of the girl shorted me a week’s pay, $75. Or perhaps that was the cost of the frozen Bloomingdale’s cookies I ate out of her freezer one night that summer. So maybe we’re even.

So once again, humorlessly, my parents accepted me back, this time for just a few days or weeks before I was set to go to school. Neither of my parents accompanied me to Boston. Instead, they dispatched my two younger brothers to escort me on Amtrak. We spent the night in a motel, the following morning my brothers and I found Simmons, they dropped me off, and that was that. My mother had bought me a comforter (what I soon discovered was in Boston called a “puff”). It had a very strong design, vaguely Indian, black elephants on a red and gold field. A loud pattern. My roommate, a very preppy girl from Marblehead who had a strong conception of how our shared room should look, hated it on sight, and that was the start of our mismatched year together.

And all these things feel so hard to change….

Later. I was actually trying to get to a small memory from all this preamble.